RDBN wants flexibility with additional dwellings on farmland

There is a new bill meant to avoid building extra homes on farmland.

The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) has asked the Province for some flexibility when it comes to allowing farmers to add additional residences to property that is zoned agricultural land reserve (ALR), but Bill 52 may make that impossible.

Currently the ALR is split into two zones with difference processes and criteria for land in its area, but if Bill 52 is passed ALR will become one zone. There will no longer different processes for different areas but one set of rules for all ALR land the ministry of agriculture said.

This will mean farm land in the Bulkley Valley will have to follow the same rules as farm land in the Okanagan region.

There is an allowance for second dwellings on ALR land under current rules, RDBN planning director Jason Llewellyn said.

Farmers can have a second mobile home that only immediate family may occupy and be can’t rented, and if their property is over 50 hectares they can have a second regular home with conditions.

Anyone who wants to add an additional dwelling for farm workers or outside of the previously mentioned uses needs to make an application to the RDBN. The final decision as to whether to approve the secondary dwelling rests with the agricultural land commission (ALC).

If Bill 52 is passed there will no longer be an allowance for secondary dwellings.

Llewellyn said it appears all secondary dwellings would have to go through the previously mentioned application process but he won’t be sure until he sees the exact wording of the bill.

“Farming in the north is a completely different animal than in the south. So we need some flexibility to allow farmers to use other things such as second dwellings or workshops or side business through their property. We need to acknowledge that it is different and harder in the north because of the climate,” he said.

Regional Director for Area A (Smithers rural) Mark Fisher said the RDBN prefers and has expressed to the ministry they would like to work with the ALC when it comes to decisions on secondary dwellings on farmland.

The ministry of agriculture said having two zones led to a lack of clarity around the protections in place for farmland in B.C. and it caused an administrative burden for the ALC.

During the consultation process the ALC was told by some local governments they don’t have agricultural expertise nor the level of staff to appropriately manage applications for additional dwellings, the ministry said.

The new process will now have the ALC, who have the technical expertise on farming, making decisions together with local governments, the ministry said.

Local governments will have the authority to approve, through regulation, a home occupation use to support additional income for a farmer or rancher, when those additional dwellings are approved, the ministry said.

Emergency management strategy

Fisher said the RBDN will develop a new emergency management strategy after a debriefing of this summer’s wildfires.

“One of the things we are really empowered to do is make people more prepared,” Fisher said. “That includes a good plan on what you’re going to do in the event of an emergency, where to get information, what to believe — because there’s a lot of misinformation out there as well.”

The RBDN offers support with accessing different funding envelopes in the event of emergency situation like wildfires or floods and hosts community meetings on what to do in those situations.

More information can be found on www.rdbn.bc.ca.

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